With Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea making impressive starts to the season, it seems the rest will be battling for the minor places and that vital Champions League spot. Are Arsenal, Liverpool, or Tottenham best equipped to win the race for fourth place?
Before the start of the season Liverpool would have been hot favourites for the coveted fourth place. Having spent nearly £100 million strengthening their side, things looked rosy on Merseyside. They started optimistically with wins against Bolton and Arsenal, but their form has somewhat fizzled out of late.
Some of the reds new signings have yet to hit the ground running- Jordan Henderson in particular has come in for a lot of stick, just because they paid an enormous amount for him shouldn’t mean he is thrust into the side at every opportunity.
Liverpool seem to lack the creativity required in the midfield and the loss of Raul Meireles has not helped that. Certainly the return of Steven Gerrard will be a boost in that area. If they are to succeed this season they also need to work on their style of play, as it seems whenever Andy Carroll is on the pitch there is a tendency to hoof the ball upfield, which doesn’t play into anybody’s hands, least of all Carroll’s.
The Liverpool squad is certainly improved from last year, and they have much more strength in depth, but they seem to be lacking the spark they showed at the end of last season, and despite the money spent don’t look the finished article. One thing that will play into their hands is the benefit of not being in European competition this year, so they should be fresher than their rivals and more able to focus on the Premier League.
Tottenham have already lost heavily to Manchester United and Manchester City, but that is likely to be a fate that befalls many this season. They have made excellent signings over the summer in Scott Parker, Brad Friedel and Emmanuel Adebayor, also managing to keep hold of Luka Modric could nudge them ahead of their rivals.
Modric can dictate play and create chances for Spurs, in fact he is just the type of player Liverpool are missing. Scott Parker will be a great signing, he has come in and looks like he has played for Spurs all his life. Adebayor could also be key, he is the striker Spurs have been crying out for to put away all those chances they often create. He could capitalise on their excellent service and Rafael van der Vaart will benefit from playing just behind him. Tottenham have the strongest squad out of the teams chasing fourth place, which is important as they are also in the Europa League, although their focus will remain firmly on the Premier League.
The question marks for Spurs lie over their defence. With Michael Dawson out for 2 months, it is up to the rest to step up to the plate. Younes Kaboul looked excellent against Liverpool, and Ledley King when fit is a world class player, Kyle Walker has also impressed so far. Looking at the opening five games of the season, it seems as if Tottenham will be the side to beat for fourth place.
Arsenal have had a horror start to the season, with three losses already, and are in total disarray off the field. A summer filled with a lack of confidence in the manager, and discontent over their best players leaving, has rubbed off onto the new season and they are currently in a downward spiral.
Arsenal did make some good late signings, but it may take a few weeks for them to bed in. The Arsenal side is significantly weaker than last season, with the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, but there should be enough quality there for them to recover this start. However, they can’t leave it too long to turn things around, or else they will find themselves lagging in the race for fourth.
Attack wise Arsenal look strong, Robin Van Persie and Gervinho will give them an outlet, with Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun creating plenty of chances. It is defensively where all the worries come in, as they look a total mess at the present time. Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos were brought in to rectify the problems, but they are yet to impress, though it will take a little while for them to gel.
This is the beginning of a new era for Arsenal, they have consistently shown their ability to finish in the top four over Wenger’s reign but this season could be their toughest yet, and is undoubtedly the most crucial of Wenger’s reign.
It’s still early days and is difficult to see which way this race will go. At the early stages of the season Tottenham look as if they will be the side in pole position for the spot, but as with anything in football you never can tell what next week will bring. There are bound to be plenty of twists and turns and this is just the battle to finish fourth!
Who do you think will finish fourth? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or following me on Twitter @LaurenRutter for more comment and debate.
Playing the Lottery has just got fun, especially as your odds are a damn sight greater.